Hi. It’s Tara here. I was reading a case about a dispute in the United Kingdom last week, which I thought did have a little bit of relevance to Australian estate planning. So, I thought it would be a good idea to cover off on this topic as well.
So, the dispute was over money in a bank account that was in joint names and one of the bank account holders had died. Now because the bank account was in joint names, the surviving bank account holder took 100% of the asset, and it didn’t get passed under the will of the person who had died. And there was a claim by the beneficiaries of the will saying that they should have received half of that money.
Now, the outcome really comes down to the legal principle around joint tenants. So, anything held jointly can be held as joint tenants or tenants in common. But when you’re dealing with a bank account, it is nearly always presumed that it is held as joint tenants. And, joint tenants means there is a right of survivorship, so the survivor takes all.
So, when it comes to estate planning and money in joint bank accounts, this is a really important one to consider. If you have money in joint bank accounts and you don’t want the other joint holder to take all the money if you pass away, then you need to change the ownership.
Conversely, for a lot of couples having money in a joint bank account can be a great strategy for estate planning, because the surviving bank account holder or the spouse takes all of the money instantly and we don’t have to worry about administrating the estate claims on those funds etcetera. So, it can be good, it can be bad. I think the key to this is just understanding the consequences of the joint bank account, applying it to your circumstances and making sure it does achieve your objectives.